Turn Building Safety into Action During Building Safety Month

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In my experience, people tend to think that making their home or business more resistant to disasters is a very complex process that requires many professionals.  However, in the majority of cases, a little do-it-yourself effort can go a long way.  Making your home safer can be as simple as clearing flammable materials around your home if you live in an area prone to wildfires – or as complex as using specialized techniques when rebuilding your home after a disaster.

This month has been designated by the President as National Building Safety Month to highlight the importance of disaster-resistant building codes and standards that can help build stronger and safer communities across the nation.

One way FEMA helps promote disaster-resilient communities is through our support of national building code and standards organizations like the International Code Council along with state and local building officials. FEMA strongly supports our partners who promote the importance of disaster-resistant building codes and standards that can help communities reduce the impacts of natural disasters, protect the environment and save energy.

These codes translate into tangible, actionable things you can do as a homeowner or business owner that will make any building more resilient. Things like:

  • Elevating your home or business property.
  • Using more resilient construction materials.
  • Employing safe and sustainable design methods. 

FEMA continually works with building officials, design professionals, scientists, and engineers from Federal, State, territorial, local, non-profit, tribal, and private sector organizations to develop disaster-resistant guidance and tools. Communities and individuals consult FEMA’s technical guidance publications every day  to protect homes and businesses from earthquakes, fires, floods, tornados, winds, and other hazards.

For example, following Hurricane Isaac’s impact in August 2012, FEMA’s Hurricane Isaac Mitigation Assessment Team evaluated damage from the storm to the northern Gulf Coast of the United States, then developed recommendations for improvements in building design, construction, and code development and enforcement. The team also documented activities that made rebuilding easier, while increasing the safety of those structures.

And obviously, building safety continues to play a key part in the rebuilding effort after Hurricane Sandy.  Thousands of structures were damaged from the storm, some with foundational damage like this one:


damaged homeNorwalk, Conn., Nov. 10, 2012 -- This home's foundation was built with a break-away wall ocean-side several years ago after the home was storm damaged. In Hurricane Sandy, it collapsed - allowing the water to flow under the house, which was not damaged. FEMA mitigation specialists distribute information on up-to-date construction techniques to ensure a safer rebuilding of a home. Literature can also be requested through FEMA's website. Photo by Marilee Caliendo/FEMA

After disasters we make a substantial effort to make sure building back safer and stronger is top of mind.  We send “Mitigation Outreach Specialists” into impacted communities to speak directly with local homeowners and businesses looking to rebuild. Our primary location for these outreach specialists to visit is local home improvement stores.  That’s where people go to buy supplies or ask questions about repairing their home, so that’s where we focus our on-the-ground effort.  Here are a few of our outreach specialists in action after storms and flooding impacted Mississippi earlier this year:

fema help at home improvement storeHattiesburg, Miss., Feb. 27, 2013 -- Hazard Mitigation Specialists are at Lowe's to distribute information and answer questions for customers. FEMA has Hazard Mitigation specialists working in Mississippi with training in building safe rooms. Photo by Marilee Caliendo/FEMA

fema staff at home improvement storeHattiesburg, Miss., Feb. 23, 2013 -- Iris Fields, Hazard Mitigation Specialist, prepares a display illustrating construction elements of a safe room. FEMA has Hazard Mitigation specialists at Home Depot, distributing advice and information about making a safe room in your home. Photo by Marilee Caliendo/FEMA

In addition to the outreach in impacted communities, FEMA works very closely with state, local, and tribal officials to ensure they have the right tools to ensure a fully recovery.

This is just the “tip of the iceberg” about how FEMA supports building safety all year round.  To learn more about important steps you can take to help better prepare your home or business property  by building stronger, safer structures, visit fema.gov or go to the Building Safety Month Website for additional information and resources.

Last Updated: 
05/16/2013 - 17:14
Posted on Thu, 05/16/2013 - 17:14
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